South Australians have transferred more than $1.9m to suspected scammers in West African in the past financial year. However, a dedicated SA Police operation named Disrepair has helped reduce the flow of cash by more than 40 per cent since being launched in May 2013.
As part of Operation Disrepair police officers follow the money trail of transfers to West Africa – particularly to the global scam hotspots of Nigeria and Ghana – and identify South Australians who may be sending money without good cause.
Police then sent a letter to those identified, alerting them to the fact they may be sending money to scammers and providing other educational material.
In some cases officers follow up with a home visit or phone call in a bid to ensure the person is not being scammed.
Figures released today show that in July 2013, $223,877 was sent by South Australians to Nigeria and Ghana in just one month, but in June 2014, that figure fell to $129,876 – a reduction of 42 per cent.
Since the operation began 781 letters have been sent to 600 suspected victims, with only 70 of those people still remitting funds.
“We believe these figures show how many people fall victim to these kinds of scammers,” said Detective Superintendent Mark Wieszyk, from the Commercial and Electronic Crime Branch.
“These scammers used a wide range of tricks, from romancing the victim to praying on simple human failings such as naivety or greed.
“The dramatic downturn in the amount of money being remitted is as a result of higher level of awareness in the community – much of it brought about through Operation Disrepair.”
He urged people to remain suspicious whenever asked to send money overseas by people they have not personally met.
“Do not let anyone pressure you into sending money, be vigilant and do not part with your money easily,” he said.
“Be wary of emails or requests from overseas, particularly if they start mentioning financial difficulty or in need of financial assistance.”
Tips for avoiding the scammers:
× Get independent advice before making decisions about investing or transferring money
× Run an internet search on some of the key terms
× Use Government websites such as scamwatch.gov.au (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) or moneysmart.gov.au/scams (Australian Securities & Investments Commission)
× Victim Support Services of South Australia provide counselling and assistance to scam victims: http://www.victimsa.org/